7 Ways to Forgiveness: A Reader's Perspective
Not too long ago, I wrote the blog How Do We Forgive Ourselves? As a follow up to the blog Refusing to Forgive: 9 Steps to Break Free. Many people have commented on these blogs which is the real benefit of the blogosphere in action. The wisdom that arises out of these blogs comes from the community of readers and people learning from one another. So I want to really thank you for that.
Recently, one reader, Lisa, said she didn’t have a “magic formula,” but through her experience listed 7 ways toward forgiving ourselves. Here is her mindful comment:
- Blame and responsibility are not the same thing. Accepting responsibility for one’s actions is not the same as punishing oneself. Punishment is self-destructive and does not help at all prevent future mistakes because nothing is learned; responsibility is healing. Responsibility means understanding what made us make mistakes and take action to prevent similar errors in the future.
- Mistakes and poor decisions are part of the human condition. NO ONE is above that. We all have made mistakes, and we all will.
- Sadness and remorse are expected feelings, and I do not think we have to get rid of them in order to move on. I feel that part of me will always be sad or regret things (not) done in the past, but the key is to understand that those feelings are just one part of me, not who I am. They do not define me. Trying to stop feeling sad in order to feel better is a recipe for being stuck in sadness forever. Feel the sadness and the pain, fully and consciously. I have found that only that way am I able to put sad feelings in perspective. They don’t go away, but they become smaller and less defining.
- Overwhelming guilt often turns into violent behavior (not necessarily in the physical sense, but in the sense of treating ourselves poorly because we feel we deserve it), but hurting ourselves will not change what upsets us, it will just hurt ourselves.
- It is important to accept that the past cannot be changed, that what we did is done, and that wishing otherwise will not fix things. We can try to make amends when it is possible (the person we hurt is alive…), but we need to accept unpleasant outcomes. Asking for forgiveness does not mean someone else will forgive us. That’s why true forgiveness can only come from oneself. If I am able to feel compassion towards myself and forgive me, then my healing is not dependent on others’ responses.
- I feel that in order to forgive ourselves it is important to understand where our actions come from. What sort of suffering/problem drove us to behave the way we did. If, say, I cheated on my partner, it might be helpful to understand what I felt was missing in my relationship, or why I was angry and wanted to get back at him or her, or why I took him or her for granted, or simply why I acted mindlessly. Responsibility and change come from understanding.
- Sometimes we blame ourselves for things we had no control over, in particular things done at a young age that are the direct consequence of our upbringing. I feel it is important to differentiate between things I could have done differently, and things I could have not done differently. For instance, I sometimes blame myself for not taking better care of my ailing grandmother when I was a child, but, really, was there anything I could have done at 10 for a person with a disease, Alzheimer’s, which I did not understand? The answer is no. Could I have been more compassionate towards her? I could have, in an ideal world, but in my reality, I did the best I could and knew how to, and that’s my forgiveness.
Just my two cents.
At the end of all my blogs I say something like “Please share your thoughts, questions, and stories below. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.”
Here we can see this in action. Thank you Lisa, for your wisdom!
Goldstein, E. (2009). 7 Ways to Forgiveness: A Reader's Perspective. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 21, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/mindfulness/2009/07/7-ways-to-forgiveness-a-readers-perspective/